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Latest news and features from, the world's leading liberal voice
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    Foreign ‘posted’ workers are both exploited and blamed for undercutting wages. EU governments must crack down

    Freedom of movement for EU workers has been front and centre in the Brexit debate. Fear of foreign workers undercutting the wages and working conditions of locals helped to fuel the leave campaign. Now EU nationals – Poles and others – who have called Britain home for years, sometimes decades, face an uncertain future in the UK.

    But while attitudes to migrant workers in Brexit Britain are often seen as a case apart, free movement of people evokes hostility in other EU countries too. The belief that foreigners take away jobs from local workers is – and has long been – a textbook example of false information. Research has proved again and again that the belief is ill-founded. Yet to some, it feels true no matter how many studies show that it is not.

    Proposed new EU rules aim to grant posted workers with the same pay and conditions as local staff

    Related: Study estimates 500,000 EU workers are in low-skilled UK jobs

    Related: Viktor Orbán calls for anti-migration politicians to take over EU

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    The energy drink’s tube adverts might have been banned for making false claims – but their sentiment against our culture of working long hours should be embraced

    I’m not squeamish, except for one small thing: I cannot repeat rhyming couplets. So I can’t tell you exactly what Red Bull’s latest London Underground advert says because it uses this mawkish lyrical form. I can tell you that it was reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority for promising health benefits that fizzy drinks aren’t allowed to do (nope, not even Shloer). I can even describe that promise, in a roundabout way: Red Bull will make you feel so energetic that you’ll finish all your work and leave at four. I think the rhyme, rather than the purported health benefits, is what really riled the person who complained and got it banned.

    Leaving work at 4pm is the opposite of what you’re supposed to want; serious people work all the time. I haven’t had an office job since 1999. Over the years, I’ve learned a ton of things that people with jobs will never know: who Winifred Robinson is; what squirrels do all day; why corner shops only allow two schoolchildren in at any one time. But most of all, from this epic distance, I’ve been able to track the long-hours culture – when it’s been at its worst, what has been driving it – and then I’ve been able to ruminate on what it all means, because no one is yakking in my ear about carrot cake.

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    Drop in fuel and clothing prices spur drop to 2.1%, offering respite to consumers

    UK inflation fell to its lowest level in nearly two years in December after a drop in petrol prices offered some respite to consumers who are reining in spending as Brexit looms.

    The annual rate dipped to 2.1% from 2.3% in November, the weakest since January 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics. Economists said the drop reduced the likelihood that the Bank of England would raise interest rates in the near future.

    Inflation is when prices rise. Deflation is the opposite – price decreases over time – but inflation is far more common.


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    Ticket website has been ordered to publish full details of sellers by midnight on Thursday

    A millionaire super-tout and a ticket fraudster’s wife have been revealed as some of the people using the much-criticised ticket website Viagogo to make money from music and sports fans.

    From midnight on Thursday the site must publish the names of touts who have identified themselves to the platform. Touts use a variety of means to obtain tickets before genuine fans to sell them on at a profit.

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    Outlook for sales the weakest in two decades, say Britain’s surveyors

    The looming threat of Brexit has dragged down the UK property market further, with prices falling at the fastest rate in six years and the outlook for sales the weakest in two decades, according to Britain’s surveyors.

    The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said the number of inquiries, agreed sales and new instructions all declined in December.

    Related: Ryde and Smethwick are top UK towns for house price growth

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    I have a clean licence and big no claims – but my premium has gone up to nearly £2,000

    A driver, who was on the phone, hit my new car from behind seven months ago. Then, three weeks ago, I was struck on a roundabout by an Estonian lorry driver who had misunderstood the right of way.

    I have been driving for 31 years, have a clean licence and maximum no claims. My renewal is due and the quote from One Call has risen from £476 last year to £1,882.

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    Emergency departments are challenging places – but if we are to provide good patient care, we must look after ourselves

    The emergency department can be a solemn and challenging place: many of the patients we see are scared, vulnerable, upset or frustrated. Demand for the care and treatment we provide has also been rising. I have heard about the impact on colleagues and felt it myself – either in a moment’s frustration or despair during a busy shift, or by reading the research about high burnout rates in emergency medicine.

    In 2016, the NHS had a very challenging winter. More people were coming to A&E, and they were sicker and needed more complex care. Working through this led me to ask two simple questions: are our jobs making us sick? And what can I do about it?

    Related: A&E nurse: am I on the road to burnout and destruction?

    Related: 'It can be exhausting to care': a letter to all new junior doctors | Elizabeth Moulder

    Related: Sign up for Society Weekly: our newsletter for public service professionals

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    Lords report accuses ministers of ‘inflation shopping’ with tactical use of RPI and CPI

    Students and rail passengers have been unfairly penalised by the government using a “flawed” measure of inflation that needs to be urgently fixed, according to a highly critical report from peers.

    Ministers have been able to use a tactic of “inflation shopping” to select the retail prices index measure of inflation when it stands to benefit the exchequer, and the typically lower consumer prices index to keep a lid on outgoings, the House of Lords economic affairs committee said.

    Related: Student loans: use of RPI costs graduates up to £16,000

    Related: Rail users to mount 'national day of action' over 3.1% fare rise

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    Photographers and ‘influencers’ are the latest to suffer an elaborate internet rip-off – but some Instagrammers are themselves pulling a fast one

    There was a time when an online scam was easy to spot: there would be a Nigerian prince, and the promise of a fortune, and an email address that was just a long string of numbers. Now, though, things have got a little more sophisticated.

    One such scam that recently made the news targeted travel photographers and Instagram influencers. They claim to have received a personalised, and legitimate-looking, invitation to work on a luxurious Indonesian campaign for Wendi Murdoch. When they flew to Indonesia, they were forced to pay thousands of dollars upfront for various nonexistent permits, and never heard from “Wendi” again.

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    Banks say borrowing on plastic will be lowest since 2007, with mortgages down to 2010 level

    Borrowing on credit cards is expected to plunge to the lowest levels since 2007 in the three months before Brexit, according to the Bank of England, in another indication of stresses facing the UK economy.

    According to the latest quarterly health check on credit conditions from Threadneedle Street, high street banks forecast borrowing on plastic will decline in the first quarter by the most since records began 12 years ago.

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    The government’s university funding review must not cut fees – that would damage teaching and help only richer students

    • David Blunkett is a former education secretary

    Recent research has shown that higher education students from wealthier families are paying off tuition fees in England upfront, in order to avoid debts and “sky-high” interest rates. The findings, from the Intergenerational Foundation, showed that the “bank of mum and dad” was once again intervening in a world of deep inequality and unfairness.

    The thinktank called for changes to the current fees system – however, this is unlikely to benefit those being disadvantaged by it.

    Related: Social mobility tsar warns cuts to tuition fees may not help poorest students

    Related: Cutting tuition fees will turn universities into vassals of the state | Simon Jenkins

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    It’s ripe with history and character, from magnificent social housing to spooky churches

    What’s going for it? We shan’t mention HS2 and the new Euston station (well, OK, just once more). But ’twas ever thus. Apart from a brief fancy period in the early 19th century when Charles Dickens and Mary Wollstonecraft lived here, Somers Town has always been on its uppers, easy prey for grands projets. When London ended at Euston Road in the 18th century, it was famous for being where the city chucked its rubbish in mountainous landfills. By the mid-19th century, London’s most notorious slums were here. In the name of “improvement” and slum clearance, railway companies saw nothing wrong in charging through the neighbourhood with new lines, plonking their stations here, rather than posher Bloomsbury to the south. There’s no escape from the railways. That said, the commuters mostly dart down holes in the ground, leaving Somers Town, these days, one of London’s best-kept secrets, ripe with history and character, like the magnificent 1920s Ossulston Estate social housing, Drummond Street’s Indian cafes, and the spooky St Pancras Old Church, one of the oldest sites of worship in London, in whose churchyard the Hardy Tree grows among gravestones moved by the young Thomas Hardy (when he was an architect) to make way for St Pancras station; railways even bothering the dead.

    The case againstThe disruption of HS2 construction for years to come. Gruff around the edges. Euston Road is choked with traffic and pollution 24/7.

    Related: Let’s move to Great Malvern and the Malvern hills: walk in Elgar’s footsteps

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    A London couple are prepared to pay big money for a nanny who can make their sons’ dreams of football glory come true

    Name: Mary Kloppins.

    Occupation: Full-time nanny.

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    My colleagues are encouraging me, but I’m worried it will mean loads of pointless work

    Every week a Guardian Money reader submits a question, and it’s up to you to help him or her out – a selection of the best answers will appear in next Saturday’s paper.

    My company lets employees choose trustees to help oversee its pension scheme. My colleagues are pushing me to sign up, but I’m worried it will mean loads of work without achieving anything. Can any other trustees out there reassure me (and tell me what works best), or is this a nightmare in the making?

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    Tenants are being offered schemes that do away with the need for large amounts upfront

    Scraping together a deposit on a new flat is always tough for tenants, with the average amount demanded now more than £1,400 in England and Wales. Would you rather pay an insurance fee of about £300 – which you won’t get back – or find the money for the deposit? That’s the deal being dangled in front of tenants by some of Britain’s biggest letting agents.

    Rental deposits have soared in recent years, with tenants frequently asked to put down the equivalent of two months’ rent, which they won’t see returned for possibly years – and then with possible deductions.

    Related: UK house prices fall at fastest rate in six years on back of Brexit – Rics

    Tenants, after paying the insurance premium, can be left with having to fork out again if the landlord claims on it

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    Green activist John Cossham, 52, on how he earns very little so he can live a low-carbon lifestyle

    Name: John Cossham
    Age: 52
    Occupation: Entertainer and ecology educator

    I’m an enthusiastic green activist and I earn very little so I can live a low-carbon lifestyle. That’s the way I like it; I don’t want much money, because people who earn a lot have a high carbon footprint. This green lifestyle saves my family about £10,000 a year on utilities, food and travel compared to the average family of four. But that’s not the reason I do it.

    Related: Off the lamb: how to eat with a low carbon footprint

    Related: 'I'm a knight and I live by the chivalric code'

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    A retired engineer has slashed his lighting bill by using LED bulbs – why isn’t everyone doing it?

    There is an electrical puzzle that retired engineer Rodney Birks just can’t solve. After a lifetime spent designing instruments for cars, Birks, 72, can’t quite work out why the government and millions of households are ignoring the single, simple way we can all cut the electricity bill for lighting our homes by 90%.

    It will shave nearly £2bn off the energy bills for Britain’s 25m homes. It requires just a small investment, that will be repaid within three to four months – and give you a payback lasting more than 20 years. It will stop as much as 8m tonnes of CO2 entering the atmosphere and the energy saved at peak time equates to the output of three power stations the size of Hinkley Point C.

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    Website publishes details of small firms and sole traders who are vastly inflating prices

    The scale of ticket touts’ grip on access to live music and sports has been revealed, after the Viagogo website published details of its most prolific sellers, under the terms of a court order secured against the company by regulators.

    Information released by Viagogo showed that touts have grabbed thousands of pounds worth of tickets to see artists such as Ariana Grande and Fleetwood Mac, which they then advertise to music fans at vast markups.

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    Paying £600 in contributions could lead to a boost of about £4,000 over your retirement

    Should I volunteer to become a pensions trustee?

    Thousands of people are being urged to consider topping up their state pension before the price goes up in April. Someone who pays in £600-£700 now could potentially end up receiving £4,000-£5,000 of extra state pension over their retirement.

    Many people are unaware they can potentially cash in by paying subsidised voluntary national insurance contributions (NICs) to fill past gaps in their NI records. But the price of voluntary NICs will rise in April, so those considering topping up their state pension in this way should not delay doing so, according to former pensions minister Steve Webb, who is now director of policy at life and pensions company Royal London.

    Related: Should I volunteer to be a company pension trustee?

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    Policy renewal letter did not mention annual premium increase, says one customer, despite it being mandatory

    The RAC has been accused of sending out breakdown cover renewal letters with an undisclosed 37% increase in premiums, despite new rules that force insurers to display annual price rises.

    Since 2017, insurers have been required to tell consumers in renewal letters how much they paid the previous year to encourage them to shop around. At the time the measure was introduced, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said it would “transfer £100m from firms’ profits” into consumers’ pockets.

    I’m surprised it isn’t considered a breach of the FCA rules as nowhere in the letter does it state previous premiums

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